Mon. Feb. 11, 2019: Abstract Love vs. Specific Love #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, February 11, 2019
Waxing Moon

The theme for Upbeat Authors this month is love. This week, I’m going to share one of the struggles I have between abstract love vs. specific love.

What, exactly, do I mean by “abstract” love?

What I mean is all that “love for humanity” we’re supposed to have. I struggle with that.

I like individuals. As an introvert, I’m not all that fond of “people.”

I believe on treating people and regarding them with a basic level of human decency and respect, until they prove they don’t deserve it.

I love my family, my friends, particular colleagues with whom I’ve formed close relationships, differently from each other, as we discussed last week.

But I struggle with a basic love for humanity.

I’m too much of a cynic for that. I used to be a romantic wrapped in a shell of cynicism, but the older I get, the more the cynicism is real.

Part of yoga practice is that we are all just fine where we are, in this moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t or shouldn’t strive to do or be better. But it means we are “enough” in this moment. This is where we are; this is where we start. We build from here.

Also part of many practices that work in tandem with yoga, especially devotional yoga, are ways to cultivate a love of humanity.

One of those is the Loving Kindness meditation. There are several versions of this, but the one I use most often is below, with different, specific focuses each time I repeat it. Turning the abstract into the specific, and working from the self into the larger world, I find, is helpful. It strips away the cynicism, even for a moment.

You start with yourself, saying,
“May I be happy;
May I be well;
May I be prosperous;
May I be at peace.”

The second time around, you replace “I” with a specific “you.” This “you” is someone for whom you have fondness, affection, or love:
“May you be happy;
May you be well;
May you be prosperous;
May you be at peace.”

The third time, it’s still “you” — but this time the “you” is someone with whom you have a fractious relationship, in the hopes of cultivating a smoother road for both of you. This can be challenging, especially in the early days. I hold that same difficult “you” in the chant for a period of days or weeks until I feel less resentful of wishing them well in the first place.

The fourth time, it’s “we.” This can mean a specific group – family, work colleagues, meditation group. I usually set it to mean my circle of family, friends, neighbors, contacts.
“May we be happy;
May we be well;
May we be prosperous;
May we be at peace.”

The fifth and final time, it’s “all.” This gets into the bigger abstract I’ve been talking about, about all humanity, or, if you want o go even further, all living beings:
“May all be happy;
May all be well;
May all be prosperous;
May all be at peace.”

If you start dissecting it and saying it’s not logical for everyone to be all those four things (which is tempting), you’re missing the point for the moment of mantra. It’s a wish to work toward that. It’s also a way to get out of poverty consciousness, feeling there will never be enough (which is what governments and corporations want you to feel, so they can take even more), and work toward prosperity in mind and tangible things.

Our minds are our most powerful tools. The Loving Kindness meditation reminds us of this.

I often say it for a few months every night before I go to bed, then give myself a break for a few weeks. I find it particularly effective when Mercury is retrograde, and everything seems to be all over the place.

It’s a way to build from specific to more abstract, so by the time you get to “all” — the all feels specific.

This is one of the tools that works for me as I work on myself and my relationship to the world, especially in these tumultuous times. I’m sharing it, because it might help you, too.

I wish you happiness, health, prosperity, and peace.

 

Published in: on February 11, 2019 at 5:52 am  Comments Off on Mon. Feb. 11, 2019: Abstract Love vs. Specific Love #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Feb. 4: Defining What Love Means to You (and Your Characters) #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, February 4, 2019
New Moon

We throw around the word “love” in relation to items or people with which we barely have a relationship. So what does “love” mean to you?

It’s going to mean something different to different people. There are also different types of love: I love my friends differently than I love my cats than I love my writing than I love my family than I love my romantic partner. Yes, they all fit into the “love” category, but the sensations are different and the ways I bring different types of love out into the world are different.

Having a basic “love for humanity” is different than a love relationship with an individual (at least to me).

For me, love is about a deep, layered connection that manifests differently in different situations. It means putting the other first where appropriate (unless it becomes unhealthy, in which case one can’t use “love” as the excuse to remain in a toxic situation).

To me, it does not mean martyring myself to gain control over someone else.

I do love my writing. It expands me, fulfills me, gives me a reason to keep going every day. It is how I understand the world, how I make sense of it. Through stories, characters, words.

I love my friends. I value them, I treasure them. I am willing to go the extra mile for them on multiple levels. I trust them with tender emotions, and I keep confidences and remain loyal — even during rough periods when others flee because of what strangers “think.” My friends and I have history and shared experience. Especially friends I’ve made on shows — anyone not on that particular production will have different frames of reference.

I value and cherish the friends I make online, but if I don’t have actual life experience with them, “love” (for me) is an inappropriate word. There are people that I interact with online daily or almost daily. But I’ve never met them; even if we share confidences, it’s different than sitting across the table from each other, or visiting a museum together or working on a project together. I feel affection and warmth and want to protect them and help them — but I’m doing a disservice if I call it “love.” For me, I have to have the tangible factor as well as the emotional factor.

“Falling in love” for me, has multiple facets. It’s the attraction and the excitement and the warmth and the laughter and the companionship and the sex — but there also has to be a sense of building, of being able to make a journey together, of giving each other emotional and physical breathing room. If it doesn’t grow in multiple directions, if it’s not an ever-changing, growing sense of layered commitments and interactions — not going to work. I’ve never been willing to settle for long — and the older I get, the less I’m willing to settle at all. My definition of partnership is very different than many other people’s. It’s not a judgment on them and their needs, because it’s about their lives. While I am willing to compromise on certain things, I am no willing to capitulate on others. I learned, the hard way, that it is far lonelier to be with the wrong person than to be alone.

Besides, as I writer, I need a lot of solitude. I can’t be with someone who is all over the place, needs constant stimulation and noise.

Our needs and desires change over the course of a life. We have to be aware of them, in tune with them, and honest about them. We have to strike the balance between self-care (which just happens to be last month’s topic) and martyrdom.

That sounds like I believe in order to write fully-rounded characters, we need to have hit a point of self-enlightenment most of us only dream about.

What’s great about creating characters and stories and situations is that we can experience how a variety of individuals define love, define partnership, become self-aware. They are not us; they are themselves, when we do our jobs properly. But we inhabit them while we write them, so for that period of time, we are them, and we can experience the world through their eyes and hearts.

That can help us define and decide what we want and need in our own lives.

We live vicariously through our fictional characters in early drafts of the books. Then we step back and meld the craft with the art and the emotion.

As human beings, we take what we learn from the creative process, and apply what works for us in our lives, and step out of the characters who are unhealthy.

It’s one of the reasons I love being a writer; I can live many lives, and yet still maintain a core integrity. I can also learn from other writers’ works, see worlds and experience lives through their characters eyes and souls, and come away as a better person. There’s an intimacy in reading that is very different from WATCHING a production. Reading is more internal; it touches the soul – and the heart – in a different way.

Great art (in any discipline) makes it possible for me to love more and love better.

This is why what we do is so important. Why the love we feel and bring to our creative process and then share with the audience is so vital to the overall well-being of humanity.

Our love matters.

 

Published in: on February 4, 2019 at 6:31 am  Comments (2)  
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Mon. Feb. 12, 2018: #Upbeat Authors — Love

The topic of today’s Upbeat Authors post, ahead of Valentine’s Day, is love.

While plenty of people bemoan the commercialization of the holiday, there’s more to it to that IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO IT.

I remember, when I was working my way up in theatre, from church basement shows to Broadway, what a big deal Valentine’s Day became. If you were dating someone, there were all these expectations, on both sides. It was a day to prove and to define the relationship. It was also a day of fear – what if the acknowledgement was out of balance with the recipient’s feelings? Those not in a relationship were either depressed or desperate (plenty of one-night stands on Valentine’s Day).

So a bunch of us who didn’t want to be bound or defined by expectations decided to do something different.

We decided that one should celebrate one’s loving relationship by the strength of daily actions. And that Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating the relationships that don’t often get celebrated, such as friendships, strong relationships with co-workers, etc. We would give each other funny little gifts or candy, and go out as a big group to celebrate EACH OTHER. It wasn’t focused on couples, although couples were included; it was about all of us being glad we were in each other’s lives, and taking note of it to celebrate, to make sure we weren’t taking each other for granted.

Were there still some of the relationship pressures? Of course.

But love takes many forms – romantic love, family love, strong and loyal friendships, even some work relationships that aren’t quite friendship, but are deeper and more complicated than “just business.” All of those deserve celebration.

We also worked for inclusion – we wanted to make sure no one felt alone. Working in theatre, that tends to happen anyway. We are a tight group and look after our own, even if we don’t always get along every moment of every day. Most of us were the outsiders growing up, or in the communities into which we were born; so the artistic community we CHOOSE does not shun people for being artistic, intelligent, or different. We BUILD our families.

That’s the big difference between living someplace like New York or San Francisco or Chicago of wherever, and living in a more isolated community (that the right mistakenly calls “real America.” Cities are just as “real” as any other community). In cities, people choose their families and their communities. Literature, especially some of the genre-focused category literature, claims that cities are impersonal and cruel. My experience has been quite the opposite. Rural communities are often stuck with those too afraid to leave; cities are built by those who choose to be there. Living in cities, we fantasize about moving out to a smaller community for a “quiet” life. The reality rarely measures up to the fantasy. It’s hard to find that balance. It’s hard to move from a place where you choose your tribe to a place that defined the tribe by place and birth years before you got there and continues to do things “the way they’ve always been done” rather than balancing a respect for tradition with the need for evolution.

So, this coming Valentine’s Day, take a minute to let the people in your life know they matter. And offer a hand of friendship or at least understanding to someone who needs it. The positive results will surprise you.

Published in: on February 12, 2018 at 6:32 am  Comments (1)  
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